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John Boehner 7, Washington 6, Us 6, Mitch Mcconnell 6, Reid 5, Obama 5, America 4, Harry Reid 4, Tom Cole 4, Newt Gingrich 3, Mcconnell 3, Sam Stein 3, George W. Bush 3, Citi 3, Jeff Americaly 2, Phillips 2, Luke Russert 2, Geithner 2, Ari 2, Mike Viqueira 2,
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  MSNBC    NOW With Alex Wagner    News/Business. Alex Wagner.  
   Forces driving the day's stories. New.  

    December 27, 2012
    9:00 - 10:00am PST  

the markets are nervous, americans are concerned and congress says it can't get it done. it's "back to the future" on capitol hill. it's december 27th and this is now. i'm ari in for alex wagner. with me today, ben stein. steve cornaki is joining us, as well. president obama returned to washington moments ago, cutting short his christmas vacation. the president has now spoken with all four congressional leaders, according to the white house communications director he. the house remains on vacation, but there are a few signs of life in the capital.
gop leaders have released a new statement with an old message to the senate. the ball is in your court. the statement says the house will take action on whatever the senate can pass, but the senate first must act. well, this morning, senate majority leader reid slammed the house republicans not not even showing up. >> if we go over the cliff, and it looks like that's where we are headed, the house of representatives as we speak with four days left after today before the first of the year aren't here with the speaker having told them they will give them 48 hours inside. i can't imagine their conscious. >> well, senator reid is expected to hold a news conference about the talks this afternoon. so here is where we stand. reid wants to get a vote on at least a basic bill to delay the automatic spending cuts, provide the unemployment benefits and still cut taxes for most americans. but it sounds like reid doesn't want to get played here.
he says he's going to only bring that bill to the floor if the house agrees to work with him on final passage. the house couldn't deliver a vote on the last republican plan so that condition seems like a deal breaker. but tom cole, the number four house republican says sometimes the real imagine ek happens in the bottom of the ninth. >> i'm going to be on an airplane tomorrow headed back. i actually think there's still a chance to get something done. and so, you know, these deals usually come together at the last moment. that's what happened in the budget bill, the debt ceiling bill. i think that's going to happen again. >> joining me from capitol hill is mike viqueira. thanks for being here. >> hey. >> you heard congressman cole there, number four house republican, deputy whip. he knows a bit about this. is he just trying to sound sort of positive? what do you take from that on the ground? >> i don't think that tom cole has the constituency, although he's known as a reasoned member and close to john boehner, i don't think he has the stoitsy to follow him to avert this
cliff. look, the last minute, as tom cole said, the deals come together at the last minute. the last minute was really before christmas. as a practical matter, that is how these deals come together each of the last three years of the obama administration, on the budget, on deficit, on tax cuts years ago. they came together before christmas. it's hard to see how this works out at this point, to tell you the truth. there is a conference call at 2:30 among house republicans trying to decide what to do. we expect the leadership to let the rank and file know what their plans are. the speaker is not in washington. we understand he is in ohio of his home state. the president has landed here back at the white house in washington. it's unclear exactly where they go from here. essentially what john boehner is saying, you go first, harry reid. harry reid is trying to jam mitch mcconnell into allowing this vote to go forward without the 60-vote threshold, something that's necessary for virtually
every vote here in the senate and mitch mcconnell says it's time for president obama to lead. the threshold question is, can something pass the house of representatives? can john boehner put something on the floor that needs the majority of democrat support that will not get republican support and none to speak of that would allow taxes to go up for people making more than $250,000 or 400,000 as was in the president's last offer and the answer to that question remains very, very unlikely. so we are where we are. this ain't schoolhouse rock, that's for sure. it's not like the house passes a bill, the senate passes a bill. this is a stand yau and the looks like the ultimate version of white house gridlock. >> right. and you mentioned the threshold. we have senator murkily on later today to talk about how crucial the filibuster is. i want to go right to steve kornaki here. we talk about the weather sometimes because it's more fun than politics. i want to play some sound about how cold the weather can get
whenever harry reid and mitch mcconnell are in the same room. take a listen to this. >> what was the feeling in that room for you? >> it was very chilly. they did not look at each other once during the course of the interview. >> i thought it would be interesting to see if there was any common ground. and we found none. >> that is some serious reporting there. no common ground between those two. but that was actually the only time they've sat for a joint interview. the notion that we're going to go to the senate and get these two guys to hammer out the final deal, does that sound like a fantasy to you? >> well, and even if you did, if you got something with mitch mcconnell, you have the whole issue with the house, the issue with john boehner and the issue with the tea party. the way i look at this, the incentives motivating people at this point line up in favor of going past january 1st. you have tom cole saying well, bottom of the ninth. but we're not up against a default. we're up against a very -- in a lot of ways, a loose deadline.
the payroll tax will expire january 1st. the markets might get unstable for a couple of days. the income tax hikes won't go into effect for a few days. the difference between this week and next week are two things. if you wake a week or two, you'll have a more liberal senate, you'll have the democrats in the house. you have the set of the bush tax cuts expiring. if you're on the republican side and you are terrified of the primary challenges, you're voting for a tax cut next year and next week. today you're voting for a tax increase. that sequence seems to matter for the republicans. to me, things line up in favor of waiting. >> you have to sort of die to be reborn and everybody can be a political reset. >> and i want to go to morning money, ben. cornaki saying something that's basic, that's so true that people forget. which isn't like oh, they start over afterwards. a lot of people at home feel, why can't they ever get anything done. the truth is, the incentives are difference because you have a
new congress coming, right? >> you have a new congress and you have all the taxes automatically going up. republicans can vote for a tax cut. democrats are in a stronger position because they have more tax cuts that they want. i would get familiar with the phrase the last train leaving the station which is always the last bill coming off capitol hill before the session ends. this gets chalked up with a lot of stuff. it could even be monday. senate has a last train leaving the station. mcconnell decides not to block amendments, gets to the floor of the senate, gets to the floor, gets passed. i don't think it's unreasonable to think that can conceivably happen. >> mike, we don't have a lot of time, but do you see that as being reasonable that mcconnell would go down that route? >> mcconnell, i don't great with steve. i've had january 10th in the pool for quite some time as the day they come to an agreement. i think the question is will the republicans have any leverage at that point to get the spending cuts and entitlement reforms that were on the table before
they're going to give up their leverage? and .i think they're going to listen to fight another day when the country runs out of money sometime at the end of february. we saw tim geithner the treasury secretary say december 31st is the day when we technically reach the debt limit. they're going to move some things around. after a couple of months, i think that's the next battleground. it just never ends. >> and we'll take a look at that. what geithner said was he was writing to inform the congressional leaders that a debt limit would be reached on december 31st, 2012, and notify you. the treasury department will begin taking extraordinary measures authorized by law to temporary regardly postpone the date that u.s. would otherwise default on its legal obligations. a lot of republicans think because they're willing to be irresponsible, because they're proven that they will irresponsibly endanger the good faith and credit of the united states, that's another piece of leverage down the road. >> yeah. and i think they're mistaken about this. i think the president has made it very clear that as a de facto
position he will not compromise. because he wants to kick the habit of using the debt ceiling as a negotiating tool. obviously, it was a telling time for secretary geithner to put out that statement yesterday. >> did you find it political? >> no, i would never -- >> if the budget matters. >> no. but it does suggest that the white house wants a grand bargain type deal, that their investment is in getting something big together so that they can resolve all these things right now. you don't have to go and ask do this all over again in two months' time, they can start focusing on other legislative matters. >> and politicians are inherently risk averse at the end of the day. there's they're concerned. there's an open question if we go over the cliff what happens. probably not that big of a deal if it's a week on two weeks. you've got a payroll tax cut immediately goes off. unemployment immediately goes off. we don't know who gets the blame. if it gets to the situation where at the 1 is he hour there's the possibility of an agreement and they can decide not to take the risk of going
over the cliff, republicans would risk have it being tagged as possibly the largest tax increase in american history hits the american public. i don't think they want that. tea party primaries can hit that. i wouldn't count the risk aversion. >> i'm glad you mentioned tea party primaries because that's a piece of this debate and something we want to get to. i want to thank you, mike viqueira for your reporting today. up next, we'll take a look at something politicos were looking at. to the explosive exit, we are going to ask is the tea party really -- we're going to take a look at the difference between the top and the grassroots of those tea parties who have managed to convince washington that deficit spending is out of tooip style. that's next on now.
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shortly after president obama took office, therein an unusual new force on the international scene, a conservative protest movement. kill the bill. well, the tea party organized around intense opposition to vote obama and republican incumbents who were deemed inefficiently conservative. unlike most beltway organizations, the tea party combined the resources of well funded management with an authentic grassroots arm. by tapping the grassroots tea party, freedom works grew its annual budget from $7. to $42 million. and the tea party helped mobilize the base. and now many insiders are saying the tea party is losing steam
because of obama's re-election. the "new york times" made the front page with "clout diminished, tea party turns to narrower issues." and "the washington post" reports tea party stays on the sidelines as obamas, republicans in congress tackle fiscal cliff. the most visible former elected official in the tea party and, of course, chairman of freedom works tried to oust several freedom works officials this fall. in fact, according to the post, army thieves control momentarily of the group. and he brought a gun carrying aide to remove rivals within the organization. but within a week, army was out. freedom works arranged an $8 million pay page for him. $8 million. that is more than the organization's entire annual budget in some years. over in the house, several tea party allies were recently stripped of their committee assignments by speaker boehner. so there are some problems there
at the top. an influential conservative is lashing out. >> the tea party is going of to look at itself. it's been so helpful to the republican party in the past. it saved i by not going third party in 2010, helping the republicans sweep the house. but the tea party style of rage is not one that wins over convertes and makes people lean toward them and say, i want to listen to you. >> so there is some real trouble there for team tea party. but this is happening among a few leaders at the top. most of what made the tea party powerful, a motivated base that can tip the republican primaries intact. last week, john boehner's caucus revolted over a large tax cut party that was deemed not large enough. steve, you've been writing about this and the mentality versus the movement of tea party.
don't you think the times have sort of overblown this story, the idea that they're out of favor? >> if showing up at business meetings with a gun gets you an $8 million payout, i think i'm going to consider that here at msnbc. but no, i think the times story, it's an interesting read. it was interesting to read about the demise of all of these things. i think it's a bit of a red herring. what the tea partied is a force in american politics to me was never a literal movement with structure and with membership advocating for specific demands. it was a reaction that we've seen from the republican party base time and again throughout modern history when a democrat has become president. when john f. kennedy hit it with the birchers, we saw it in clinton's first term in '94 and we saw it again when obama became president. this is how the republican base reacts when w a twist. and the twist was they had to explain how barack obama, this radical anti-american socialist got 53% of the vote.
with clinton in '92, they could say he only got 43% of the vote. so the explanation was george w. bush gave conservatism a bad name with reckless spending, too many compromises with democrats, bailouts, all this sort of thing. and so the answer was we have to reclaim conservative purity. that means opposing the democrats, opposing obama. that spirit, you can still see it. >> it is such an important point and it goes to something ben was saying in the last segment, which is the notion of legitima legitimacy. you're talking about the legitimacy of a democratic victory and the legitimacy of the democrat republicans who are held responsible. how many republican primaries they were involved with. christina donel beat mike castle. rand paul beat trey grayson. we had shang angle beat sue louden. those were all in 20 10. i don't read the list to bore
you. >> but i'm bored. succeeded. >> it's a long list which goes against one of the mistakes that the traditional press has made in covering this which is covering this as a republican versus democrat story, a conservative versus obama story which, really, you see up on the screen some of those primary winners, this was in large part at first a republican versus republican story. >> and, obviously, i think one of the underlying elements of the fiscal cliff drama is that mitch mcconnell is up in 2014. and to have his fingerprints on any deal at this juncture would probably invite a lot of hows if not a primary challenge whether or not that's successful. the bigger story here is the disintegration of any party institutions. in the past, the center of congressional campaign committees would probably be able to keep it at bay, use their resources, use their money to elevate the more moderate party minded politicians.
nowadays, they've attributed a lot of that to these tea party groups. they say this person is not leading up to the conservative credentials. therefore, he they need to be plucked off. that is hampering a lot of legislative activity right now. >> and i think it's both issues here playing against the tea party. the style clearly isn't working. but i think once we get over the fiscal cliff, i think that 2013 is going to be a big policy issue. and i think that the idealogical conflict within the republican party is they have no economic policy answers to the problems of the day, to the shrinking middle class. the tea party certainly doesn't have those things. i think you can't be a player right now and be hotel lly be rt of real party answers. >> and it makes it almost impossible for them to be a governing party in any way, particularly in the house of representatives. they are an oppositional party there. but it makes it impossible for john boehner to govern in any effective way to make any sort
of negotiation with the president to avoid a fiscal cliff. and the larger issue is that the national populous as a whole wants to see congress get stuff done. they want the accomplishments. so it works for republicans in some statewide races, mostly not but it's not a national agenda. >> allow me to reintroduce myself as a tea party spokesperson. what they say is they are a governing party. you said they're not. they say they are a governing party and they right now are causing the government to completely rewire the way that it deals with the deficit. and they say that there is pain in that process. but the long-term debate and the reason why they don't need to be inside the meeting room is they've got so many of the people in that room afraid of them that we are having a debate between how much to cut the deficit and not to do jobs or stimulus and the things paul reuben talks about. >> they've had an impact, but it's not a governing agenda in terms of accomplishments that
would get to their goal of deficit reduction and long-term economic growth. >> on that point, why not? >> because they're standing in the way of allowing that to happen. they're saying you can't come to an accommodation on the issue of taxes. if you can't do that, there's no way you can -- >> well, i would disagree with you and disagree with ben a little bit. what they've proved in the fist year is if you do hold certain things hostage, you can get results. and we already have $1 trillion worth of debt reduction because of that standoff over the debt ceiling of 2011. we had a conversation that's very much tilted towards deaf citizen reduction and, yes, tax increases right now. but this is not a progressive conversation we're having. we're having a conservative conversation. the only problem with the tea party is they can't get to yes. but they have definitely moved the conversation towards their vantage point. it's when they can say, yes, we'll take the social security cuts that they'll finally cement
themselves -- >> can you get the yes? >> i don't think the tea party has been quite as successful as we think they have been. if you look two years ago at the ratio obama was proposing spending cuts versus revenue. it was four to one. now it's one to one. >> you have that $1 trillion already passed. >> you do. but i think the credit the tea party gets for shifting that debate wag overblown. >> but it was deficit reduction versus short-term spending at the start of 2010. and it immediately moved to deficit reduction and how to do it. and that was a very fundamental, important shift in the conversation. >> we have to go, but -- we have to go, but i heard that after the show, sam stein will be on twiner. you can be there, too. >> we can get together. >> we have another important item, though, which is the biggest hurdle arguably to president obama's second term agenda. that's something you're probably never going to hear about, literally. people think of the filibuster as a talk athon to stop action in the senate. but nowadays it has been attacked with a constant extreme
of silent filibusters. up next, the talking filibuster ahead live. time for the your business preer oes weeks. amber and mark started north carolina's based footsteps clothing which had a booming christmas themed pajama liven. not wanting to be jump a seasonal line of christmas, they added other opportunities. for more, watch "your business." sunday morning at 7:30 a.m. everyone loves surprise parties.
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this year's republican presidential candidate was unusual, the candidates, the rhetoric and, yes, the nicknames. here is a quick look back from this show. >> can mitt romney self-deport himself into the oval office? >> karl rove thinks he's conspireing with the easter bunny. tt republican party fired up and ready together? monday, january 23rd. friday, december 7th. >> this year, the grand old party gifted us the grand old clown car. it's time to bring in steady eddie, a.k. rick santorum.
he is stretching it out in spandex. >> i would characterize that language as hot garbage. >> mitt romney's new campaign message to newt gingrich, no holds barred. my meow. >> the angry teddy bear. newt gingrich, the angry teddy bear in the room. >> the angry teddy bear as i like to call him and you like to call him. >> i've stolen that from you. you are the creator of the angry teddy bear with newt gingrich. >> and for that, i expect to be charging higher rates in the coming months. >> yeah. lost your appetite for romance? and your mood is on its way down. you might not just be getting older. you might have a treatable condition called low testosterone or low t. millions of men, forty-five or older, may have low t. so talk to your doctor about low t. hey, michael!
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i have faced 386 filibusters. lyndon johnson, won. the american people know, democrats and republicans that this place isn't working and that there needs to be changes
so that we can proceed to get legislation passed the. >> two key priorities for president obama's second term agenda are immigration and climate changes. the president needs majorities in both houses to join him on those issues. here is the weird thing about washington. that's already happened. the house passed the american clean nr act in june 2009 and democrats believed they had a majority for it in the senate, but it never got a floor vote. that is because republicans silencedly filibustered it and it takes 60 votes to break a filibuster. consider the dream act, which would help the children of undocumented workers. the house passed illustrate in 2010 and 56 senators supported it. but it never got a vote again because of a filibuster. republicans have used the filibuster to obstruct everything from security bills to wounded veteran legislation and scores of judicial appointment. so now some democrats led by oregon senator jeff americaly are saying it's time to reform the senate rules themselves when
the new congress convenes next month, they want to stop filibuster abuse by actually making senators talk on the senate floor when they want to filibuster. now, that didn't sit well with republican minority leader mitch mcconnell. >> what the majority leader is saying is he will break the rules of the senate in order to change the rules of the senate. i implore members on both sides to oppose this naked power grap grab strenuously and loudly. >> democrats can change the filibuster rules to prevent abuse of power when the new congress is sworn in. 48 democratic senators are on board with the rule change. but why is it so hard for democrats to summon these last few remaining votes? let's ask the man himself, the man leading the charge, oregon senator jeff americaly. thanks for being here.
>> thank you. it's great to be here. >> you've got this plan, you've got a lot of senators on board. what exactly would your plan do and why would it deal with this gridlock? >> well, there's a package of changes. the first is to get rid of the filibuster to proceed. a filibuster in that sense only proceeds to block the debate, rather than enhancing or facilitating debate and it makes no sense. it means we can't even get to the issues facing america. second, we need to get rid of the motions on the filibuster to get you to a conference committee. this is after the senate has passed a bill and it's senator has passed a bill. it takes three motions to get there and that has resulted in a plethora of cases in which the minority has filibustered those motions. the conference committee is become ago dinosaur. we rarely use it because we can't get to it. and then the talking filibuster.
the talking filibuster says if we have a vote on closing debate and 41 or more senators say we want to keep debating, then there actually has to be debate. no more of this, no, gist objected to unanimous consent and you have to get 60. no, if you vote for more debate, you have to keep at least one person on the floor debating. >> senator, debate would mean debate under your proposal. >> it would mean debate. and it does two things. it means a frivolous filibuster is much more likely because somebody doesn't want to spend the evening or the night talking on the floor. the second thing it does is it tells the american people what's going on. i can't tell you how often folks come to me and say, can't you just make people talk? all we say is the roll call of the senate or unrelated speeches. why is -- where is -- you're in the majority. why don't you go something done. >> steve, you know how quiet the floor is. i want to get to the key question, then. in campaigns, everybody talk bes
50 plus one, what you need to win. to change these rules, you can do it at 50 votes and a tiebreaker or 51 votes. but so far, and we have talked to. >> senate offices just today to reconfirm, you're shy of that 50 votes. and i want to spotlight so the audience understands, some of the democratic senators who say they want that to succeed but are not on board with you yet include senator barbara boxer, dianne feinstein, pat leahy, carl levin, max baucus and depending on how you pars the statement, senator jack reed. why are your colleagues holding back and what are you doing to push them on this issue? >> recognize, this is an institution, the senate, that rarely changes its rules. so folks have been here often for very long time saying, well, we can always make a gentleman's agreement to make this place work. we score the social contrast. that would be ideal and certainly if these rules worked in the past why can't they work
today. so there are folks reluctant to change them saying the better thing is to restore the social contrast. quite frankly, we've tried that. the minority leader and the democratic leader worked out a gentleman's agreement two years ago. it failed utterly. it's just clear, we're not in the same world. >> sir, how do you define failure? >> well, we failed in the sense that it was supposed to eliminate these huge number of filibusters and allow us to get an agenda on the floor. no longer have the blocking of bills before we get to the floor and to greatly expedite nominations, neither of those happened. if anything, we had more filibust filibusters. it simply wasn't possible as a gentleman's agreement among leaders. realize, they're constrained by the fact that they can only persuade members of their caucus. they can't compel members of their caucus to stand aside and let things hit the floor. it only takes one senator to object to throw you into this super majority requirement.
>> well, senator, i want to bring you in, if i could, sam stein who has been reporting on this issue, as well. he spoke to the white house and what he got back from them regarding your proposal, which is why we want to feature it while you're here is a statement from a senior administration foifb regarding how majority leader reid would deal with your proposal. he said quote -- he or she i should say say quote, how majority leader reid goes about this is up to him. sam, tell us about your reporting there and why you think the administration, which has so much on the line, isn't pushing harder. >> well, first of all, they didn't push hard at all when this was debated in 2010. they didn't want to weigh in that much. they wanted to let the senate sort its own business out. so weighing in to begin with in support of the list of reforms that the senator articulated is a significant step forward. but they still are a little cautious about this and i wonder if it has to do with the possibility of finding democrats in the minority in 2014 or whether there's some reverence for the institution of the senate among some of the longer
serving visors to the president. >> so, senator, how about that? sam saying in his discussion with the white house, they were holding back a little and he gave some reasons why. does that fit your experience? >> i think the key is separation of powers. it's touchy for the executive branch leader to tell the senate how to conduct its business. so they've been gently, quietly issuing their support, but saying we're not telling the senate what to do. for majority leader reid, we encourage him. >> senator, joe biden is, of course, president of the senate. he has a constitutional role. he could cast a deciding vote and he is currently on the side of the administration in beating badge challenges to the filibuster in federal court. at least this vice president has taken some stands here, hasn't he? >> well, not if terms of the framework of what we're about to do. and indeed, we would be as vice president, he could do a couple of things on a constitutional issue. he can say those are by normal protocol referred to the body. so if you have 51 members who
vote, that becomes the ruling. so he can either make a ruling himself and then we sustain or overturn it or he can turn the ruling back to the body, which is what was done in 1975. >> understood. steve is going to give us our last question today. >> sort of a skeptical one. even people appreciate the idea of what you're doing. i think the point is you get the talking filibuster. it will be a novelty at first. some people on c span 2 would get a kick out of watching it, but senate floor time is so precious, democrats, you know, who are being obstructed by it would quickly realize we can't slow down the senate like this. republicans would be treated like all-stars by fox news for doing it and we would end up where we are right now. >> certainly, it should be used sparingly. in other words, right now, we have the silent filibusters after we have voted. so if you can move that to a talking filibuster, you take up no more time in the senate than
is being taken up currently. so that argument doesn't stand. but there are cases you want to bring this to bear and say we are on the dream act and that is a significant issue facing america. you know what? we're going to stay on it for a week and let people air their views on the american people and the american people can weigh in on whether they're bums or heros or whether it's on the administration jobs act or the pay equity act or the disclose act. there are issues where you should have that debate dramatically and publicly before the american people call their attention to it. but it isn't saying you would want to invoke this on every single moment you could. >> understood. thank you for playing round robin. i know there's a lot of questions and we appreciate you spending time with us today, senator. >> you're welcome. thank you. now, coming up, we are going to talk about the fictional hollywood hits which raises some new and very real questions about torture. we're going to examine some of the take awayes from that film,
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now, the mo motto on to show that comes to the dress code has been come as you will, whether it's red sweaters or, yes, chocolate shoes. >> the dress code was open for interpretation. >> ari, charting new territory territory. that is a striking color for you, chairman. >> well, thank you. thank you. >> kurt anderson, would you buy a tunic to miss shirt? >> i have already. >> the only capitol hill correspondent that may or may not be wearing boat shoes right at this moment. >> how are you, my friend? >> luke russert joins the panel now in those boat shoes. >> you really believe this story?
can you be honest with you?
i am pad news. i'm not your friend. i'm not going to help you. i'm going to break you. any questions? >> that's a clip from "zero dark thinkerty." which has taken a lot of questions on torture issues. the following motion picture is based on a first hand account of actual events. not so much according to the acting director of the cia. he said the film is inaccurate and creates the strong impression that torture was, quote, the key to fining bin laden. the issue at hand is how the public consumer this movie. most studies have not found concrete of torture's efficacy and a 2006 report from the national defense intelligence college found that the scientific community has never established the interrogation methods are effective means of obtaining reliable intelligence. .in contrast to the movie's narrative, a senate report found
no evidence that enhanced interrogations played a significant role in the year's long intelligence operation which led to the discovery and killing of bin laden. now, even beyond the sight over the road to ben laden, i think there's a larger issue here. america has never fully reckoned with torture. the public was initially shocked by disclosures about waterboarding and torture at the abu ghraib prison. but there have been no prosecutions, no truth commissions and no meaningful accountability. president obama did run on restoring the rule of law to the fight against terrorist and al qaeda. but when the huffington post sam stiep asked him about torture prosecution, he expressed little interest in prosecution alleged war crimes. >> if there are clear instances of wrongdoing, then people should be prosecuted just like any ordinary citizen. but generally speaking, i'm more interested in looking forward than i am in looking backwards.
>> joining us now to look backwards, mark staner, author of "torture and truth," america abu ghraib and the war on terror. thanks for being here. >> thank you. thanks for inviting me. >> mash, let's start right there. the president said he didn't want to look backward. a lot of people said that was a reverse crone languageal frame because all prosecution of crime is backward looking. it is the history that you have to deal with. tell us your reaction to both that statement and how it relates to this new controversy over the film. >> well, it's true we haven't reckoned with torture. in fact, we're living in this strange time in which president obama and his attorney general have both said that waterboarding is illegal. the former president, george w. bush and his vice president dick cheney both say proudly that they ordered waterboarding. george w. bush in his memoirs,
he said that's right which asked whether khalid sheikh mow ham he had should be waterboarded. so we live in these strange times in which the president's administration says these activities are illegal. the previous one proudly says it ordered them performed and furthermore that it was absolutely necessary to protect the country's security to torture detainees. and now we have this movie, which is sure to be and obviously is going to be not only very popular, but perhaps in the race for oscar recognition. which seems to suggest strongly by itself narrative strategy at least by the fact that it begins with 30 minutes or so of waterboarding and other forms of torture. the torture was absolutely necessary in tracking down bin laden. >> right. mark, the film starts with those brutal interrogation and torture themes and presents a linear narrative where whatever you think of them, people look at them and think they're bad, but end with things that americans
thinking are very good, which is killing bin laden. i want to highlight this to your point. senators feinstein and mccain wrote that they believe the filmmakers have an obligation to state that the role of torture in the hunt for osama bin laden was not based on the facts. why do you think we mentioned the senior senators and john mccain who knows a thing or two about this are bent out of shape about the movie? >> well, i think they are politicians, just about all of them, and they know that you can state and state and restate facts. in fact, facts have little purchase when it comes to the powerful images of a well made motion picture. and, you know, i think one of the questions to ask here is why would this very good filmmaker, who apparently did a lot of research on the actual facts of the story and the fact of the stories as you said in your setup are quite well known, why should she decide to begin the film this way when it's against what we know about the history
of the hunt for bin laden? and i think we get there to a key point about torture, which is that it's dramatically compelling. it captures the imagination. you know, "24," the television series, "dirty harry" with clint eastwood, you can cite other instances in which torture has played a critical role because it's inherently dramatic. and it takens a kind of soothing tail within it about power. the government is willing to use any sort of travel to protect you. also, power determines everything. we're the most powerful country. therefore, it's kind of a soothing message to say it will make you safe. >> right. and you're speaking to the huge cultural power there with the ramifications on the public psyche. sam stein was in the room with the president. you asked a question which fits in with much of mark's reporting which is the shift of
temperature temperature as an illegal and out of bounds activity to a policy choice. >> sure. and i think the bigger question here is the forward looking question which is can this happen again? and one of the reasons that people are nervous about this film, one of the reasons people are upset with obama for refusing to look back, refusing to fully embrace the commission online to let senator leahy at the time is it creates a platform for a future president to do the same thing president bush did. when you have the popular pop culture aspects, when you have the lack of legal accountability, what's to prevent a future administration from reverting to these same methods? >> that's why the movie matters. mark, i'll give you the brief last word. you've written the notion that our new president obama has the power to inhibit torture, following the pred sense that his predecessor had the
obligation to follow it. are you worried that that has further been concentrated at this point. >> time? >> no question about it. we have one of our main political parties, the republican party has a clear position on torture. it's for it. it's clear what obama has done or what he hasn't done is transform torture from something that was illegal to something that presidents can do. obama said it himself, i prohibited torture. et doesn't have the power. it's illegal. and we learned at the end of this presidential campaign that mitt romney was planning to reinstitute interrogation techniques. so, yeah, i think this is a policy choice now, absolutely. >> it's an important policy debate. for those who want to hear more from mark, you can find his work at the new york review of books or on amazon if you want to read the whole book. thank you for being with us. >> thank you. >> and i want to thank, of course, ben, sam, and rhanna. strong show today. that is all the time we have for now. i will see you back here tomorrow when i will be joined
by the musician and activist john forte. andrea mitchell reports is next. luke russert is in for and ree kra. >> i'm jealous of you. john forte is awesome. >> tune in. >> and you tune into me tomorrow. i follow you again. ari, we're waiting word from senator harry reid at the top of the hour in a following news conference following his attack of john boehner on the floor of the senate this morning. i'll talk about all that and several veterans of capitol hill wheeling and dealing affairs. all that coming up next. e rewin. because your daughter really wants that pink castle thing. and you really don't want to pay more than you have to. only citi price rewind automatically searches for the lowest price. and if it finds one, you get refunded the difference. just use your citi card and register your purchase online. have a super sparkly day! ok. [ male announcer ] now all you need is a magic carriage. citi price rewind. start saving at